My family was by no means perfect. We had our ups and downs, though overall I have many more positive than negative memories.
From my immediate to extended family I was shown unconditional love and given support through my many mistakes.
We shared fun and enjoyable experiences together, such as family vacations and celebrations, and I had the freedom to develop into the person I wanted to be without judgment.
As I explore the potential of having my own family someday I am reminded of all the valuable lessons I learned, and how I can take these and be a positive role-model for the next generation to come.
Even if you didn’t have the sunniest childhood, there are many things that can be learned and applied to your current relationships to break any unhealthy cycles and make them more positive.
Below are four broad areas that can help make a happier family. These are a mixture of what I have learned from my family relationships in all forms and fashions, as well as from literature on the topic.
Clear family values and expectations
A family that knows where they’re going and has clear reasons for the decisions they are making will be happier and more capable of dealing with life transitions. I believe it’s important for the family to be viewed as a whole system with everyone on the same page.
This can come from having a family vision, mission, and values statement, which gives direction and guidance for small and large decisions in life. This requires that a family has open channels of communication and a more democratic style of decision making.
Family network and support system
Having supportive relationships is crucial to our happiness. There is great value in having extended family and friends as part of the bigger dynamic. Whether it is in-laws, step family, or extended family, recognize that these can all be relationships full of support and encouragement.
If you don’t have immediate or extended family to grow a deep and meaningful relationship with, make your own support system through volunteer work, religious communities, or other clubs and organizations. Simply put, have a network that you and your family can connect with for fun and support.
Resiliency and hardiness
Being able to bounce back and cope with tough times is a major function of a healthy family, and an important factor for happiness and satisfaction. A family should be a sturdy foundation that we can lean on during difficult times as we bounce back on our own.
Resiliency can be built from experiencing positive moments and emotions, such as finding joy in the small things, and being grateful for what you have. Even if nothing else is going well, learn to simply appreciate that you have family and friends who care for you.
Time for rest, relaxation, and fun
It’s important to set goals, take care of business, and get everything in order, but we must still make time for fun and relaxation. These moments of play, amusement, and tranquility are where families really bond. Think of the family traditions and routines that have offered fun times to grow the relationship. This may be going to the movies, taking vacations, playing games, or even cooking and cleaning.
Each of these areas can help you grow and deepen you family bond and to begin experiencing more happiness. Remember that even a “happy” family has conflict, financial stress, and an untidy house at times, so don’t expect perfection.
Enjoy the process and journey of growing together, and begin cherishing that you are a part of developing future generations into thriving members of society.